Wednesday, November 22. 2006
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Having now read both letters, it is clear to me what the truth of the matter is.
The Jacob's letter doesn't even purport to have knowledge of the incident in question. Rather, it is a hymn of praise to Bishop Nikolai that would make a hagiographer blush. Not to mention the fact that the writer is hardly a disinterested observor. At least she variously attacks Syosset, this website and any lay person with the termerity to question her boss.
In contrast, the Dauenhauer letter directly addresses the sordid affair at the seminary and sheds a brillant light on the character of Bishop Nikolai. It is not a pretty picture. Sadly it brings to mind, yet again, the shade of Bishop Tikhon who, come to think of it, is Bishop Nikolai's mentor and cohort.
Poor Alaska! Raped and pillaged by one and all. If this continues unabated even Russia won't want it back--whatever its name.
#1 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-11-22 18:30
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read these further letters from Alaska. Dr. Dauenhauer's was particularly enlightening for me. It was good to know from Ms. Jacobs that Bishop NIKOLAI is busily doing his job, as well.
I wonder what goes through the mind of a bishop when addressed as "Your grace", and why certain bishops go through the effort of reminding people how they are to be addressed.
Bishop NIKOLAI's quote "'In case you haven't noticed, there are two kinds of people in church: the clergy and the laity. Those are my prayers, not yours" reminds me of the Publican and the Pharisee.
I hope God will hear all prayers offered during the Divine Liturgy, but I know the humble laity say "Lord, have mercy" over and over again for a reason. Since when did the clergy have a monopoly on "Amen! Amen! Amen!"?
Lord, have mercy!
A reader in neither Alaska nor the West.
#2 Anonymous on 2006-11-22 20:54
A number of our bishops and clergy live in a medieval fantasy world of rank, status, privilege and autocracy. Somewhere along the way it appears that our theologians stopped asking the tough questions and began providing pseudo-theological underpinnings for this behavior instead. Once reinforced, these pseudo-theological arguments then creeped into everyday behavior. These fantasies are foundations built on shifting sand. Pomposity is distasteful in any culture, but especially distasteful in 21st century America.
#3 Anon. on 2006-11-22 20:57
Perhaps Bishop Nicolai should be reminded that were he the only one in church on a particular day, he couldn't serve Divine Liturgy. Then again, he probably doesn't care.
#4 Michael Strelka on 2006-11-24 08:08
St. Herman Seminary opened the 2006-7 academic year with just under 20 students and the unanimous approval of the seminary's board of trustees to move forward with plans to build additional married student housing.
All was proceeding as usual on this small campus in Kodiak, Alaska,
until the week before last when the student body was suddenly
reduced by one. Sources state that a first-year student, from St.
George Island in the Pribilofs, angered Bishop Nikolai while serving
and was told to apologize. The seminarian refused to do this on the
grounds that he had done nothing wrong. The result: immediate
dismissal. Described as a positive and mature individual, the
married, 50-year old subdeacon had spent his adult life in service
to the Church before entering seminary this fall.
Undoubtedly, there's a great sense of loss among the members of this close-knit community. Although all are silent on the subject, one wonders if their enthusiasm and desire to serve the Church have been dampened by this experience. Will this even lead some to question their reasons for being in the seminary? This is not the first (nor even the second) time they have witnessed extremely abusive behavior
by their bishop. What will their lives be like once they are
ordained and totally under his control? At that point they have
much more to lose than simply leaving the seminary. The policy of
going along to get along is disastrous for everyone except the one
who is abusing his power.
In light of recent reports in OCANews.org concerning the wonton
destruction of historical records and religious articles at the
behest of +Nikolai and, now, the expulsion of a seminarian, the
Church's past may not only be in jeopardy but its future as well.
#5 Reposted From the Orthodox Forum on 2006-11-24 09:43
A former student of Dr. Lydia Black describes an encounter with
Bishop Nikolai. She emphasizes that she did not mention to the
bishop her relationship to Dr. Black ( she is a former student) when she introduced herself to
"I am not Orthodox but am writing to you since Bishop Nikolai is the
representative of the Church in Alaska. The name of the village is
omitted here because this community did not ask for me to contact
the Bishop and I have shared this story about my interactions with
him, not theirs.
In January 2003, I had the pleasure of spending "Russian Christmas"
in an Athabascan village in interior Alaska. During this three day
feast, several issues were discussed among members of this very
devout community. At the time, I believe the priest who serves this
community was Father Trefon. Apparently, people from the village had
been told through Father Trefon, that the Bishop said there would be
no artificial flowers in church at Christmas and that only the
bishop and Moses could use canes or staffs in church. The church was
being remodeled and part of this remodeling included taking
the "old" icons from the front of the church and buying new ones
that residents said were very expensive. They had to replace the
icons because the "old" ones were "wrong"…according to the Bishop.
This was a major cost for a community that relies heavily on
Needless to say, people were very upset about these changes,
especially about the canes since some of the elders use them. The
prohibition of plastic flowers was almost laughable in a place that
endures forty degree below zero temperatures for months at a time.
Approximately a year later, I crossed paths with Bishop Nikolai in
the Kodiak airport. We had never met. We were stuck in the airport
due to a weather delay. I introduced myself to the Bishop and told
him I wanted to pass on information about what I was sure was
I felt there may have been miscommunication because the reader in
this village was hearing impaired and the information was third
hand. He immediately said he did not have the time or inclination to
talk with me. I said that what I had to tell him was important to a
devout group of Orthodox people who do not have access to him. And,
that I was sure that once he knew about the possibility of a message
that may have been misinterpreted he might want to write a short
note to correct it and to ease the minds of the affected people.
When I told him of the people in the village who were sad because
they couldn't put flowers in the church "like their mother had" and
the elders who missed Christmas liturgies because they had to use
canes he said, "that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard". I
said, "I thought you would think that, it would be so nice if you
would write them a note and tell them there was a misunderstanding."
He responded to me as if I had kicked him in the shin, he was
hateful and vindictive. He proceeded to rail at me that if he
responded to every stupid thing that was attributed to him it would
never end. He said he had no intention of correcting people and
their ignorance. He said it would be a waste of time to write a
letter to the village and it was
a waste of his time for me to bother him with what I had said.
I was shocked and disappointed. These were very important issues to
the residents of the village and only a few minutes of his time
would have eased their minds. Only a few times in my life have I
ever felt the presence of evil and hate. This was one of those
times, I felt evil and hate from this alleged man of the church. I
was horrified and still can't quite believe it or understand why he
would react this way. He continued on and accused me of being drunk.
All of this because I wanted him to let people in the village know
that elders with canes were welcome in the church.
The Orthodox Church in Alaska is extremely important to many people
in Alaska, especially Alaska Natives in some parts of the state. I
hope they are soon relieved of Bishop Nikolai and he is replaced by
a man of God.
#6 Reposted From the Orthodox Forum on 2006-11-24 09:46
On a side note on the Alaska deal...Bishop Nicolai has defied the whole synod of bishops. If you go to their web site and look at the pictures of latest event (I believe it St. Mike's in Sitka) you will notice that Fr. Isidore was given the Mitra to wear. Now I know for a fact that all the bishops signed and notorized a rule that does not allow any OCA priest the rite to wear a mitra unless they are a candidate to be a bishop. I know Fr. is not a candidate and he has only been a priest for 2 to 3 years...I am sure if you do your research or even ask Arch. Job he will agree that this rule was set by the bishops of the OCA and now it has been defied by this Alaskan bishop who thinks he is the Metropolitian. This is ridiculous especially since we have so many good priest who have been priest for years long before Fr. Isidore was even born and they have no mitra and had to wait 20 or so years to recieve their jewled crosses...something is not right with this picture? Please do not use my name on this, but certainly look into this. Thank you.
#7 please withhold on 2006-11-24 10:11
I would like to present, here, an exerpt from an excellent paper by Fr. Jonathan Tobias, entitled "The Nexus of Moral Discernment in the Church" (I hope he doesn't object to my doing so).
"The Fathers of that early age were careful to locate the primary place of moral discernment firmly in the office of the episcopacy. To be sure, every Christian is called upon to test the spirits, and to judge for himself what is right. But in the dogma of the Church, the episcopacy is expected to be the keenest witness of Holy Tradition to the present generation.
"St. Dionysios the Areopagite made this expectation clear, and for a particular reason. He stated, without apology or reservation, that the episcopacy should have attained the highest levels of morality and spirituality. Having attained this, the episcopacy is able then--and only then--to apprehend the mystical truth of theology.
"St. Dionysios draws an arresting correspondence between the 3 ranks of clergy with the three stages of spiritual growth. The first stage is that of "purification." In this stage, the Christian is aware of the forces in his own life, and in society around him, that contend against the Spirit. This stage corresponds with the diaconate.
"The second stage is that of "illumination," and it corresponds to the priesthood. In this stage, the Christian is able to recognize truth and meaning in reality. He is able to discern the "logos," the divinely-ordained design and destiny of that which is created. He, in turn, is able to guide others to illumination.
"The third stage is that of mystical union with Christ, and it corresponds to the episcopacy. The Christian is here inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he experiences "theoria," or the "vision of theology." Accordingly, he is given a profound awareness of the contemporaneous voice of apostolic tradition. Indeed, this is why we recognize the episcopacy as the vessel of the unbroken, continued presence of apodosis, or the apostolic witness of Holy Tradition.
"Of course, it should be said that this schema of St. Dionysios does not discount the fact that there are many Christians who have been purified, illumined, or given the grace of theoria. Neither does it discount the tragic possibility that some bishops, priests and deacons may not have attained their corresponding stages."
Without making any comment, I would only ask, "Is this descriptive of what we read about various bishops and priests in the OCA? Are they manifesting purification, illumination and theoria?"
#8 Name withheld on 2006-11-24 11:59
I was happy to read the response of the bishop's assistant, Ms. Jacobs. In my mind the most pertinent sentence in the whole song and dance was the following: "I don't know that what His Grace has mortgaged in Alaska is anyone's business."
It entirely fits with the clericalism evident in his reply to Mr. Dauenhauer and with the rumors of scandalous rudeness and high-handedness coming from people who have witnessed his behavior in Alaska.
Bishop Nikolai (sorry, I refuse to use all caps) may be quite adept in matters of business, and his real estate deals may have been wise stewardship for the diocese. But those lands belong to the diocese; they are not the personal fiefdom of the bishop.
It's his imperial view of himself and his power that makes people sing "Eis polla eti, Despota" to the tune of "The Imperial March" from Star Wars.
Just a couple thoughts:
As were many, I was there and aware of the conflict between Bishop NICHOLAI and Dr. Black at the pilgrimmage. Interesting to hear it come up again, though I wouldn't presume to have any reasonable knowledge of the affair beyond "he said, she said."
It does seem that the opinions that come out of Alasaka are varied and split. It is reasonable to assume that strong leaders often and unintentionally polarize the interpretations of those around them. (This is certainly true of many of the highly visible and respected leaders elsewhere in the Church.)
That said, on a broader note, I have heard of many accounts, and have experienced some, too, of clergy -- bishops and priests -- who clearly abuse their authority in church life, and -- of all places! -- within the context of the Liturgy.
This is, to my mind, unacceptable. The whole spectre of religious abuse -- the negative patronizing, child-parent, coercive, guilt-oriented style of management and behavior toward people who are dependant upon clergy for spiritual guidance and sacramental life -- must be addressed by our communities.
To be sure, there must be authority, real authority, in the Church, and it must be assumed and responsibly carried out. Church members have a responsibility for good order and for the cultivation of our salvation to humbly accept this authority.
Individually, we are encouraged to bear wrongs. But as a community, these wrongs and abusive relationships and behaviors must not be allowed to continue unchallenged and unattended. In the 21st century, remarkable work has been done in the science of leadership and person-to-person interaction. There is no excuse in the Church -- of all places! -- for haphazard, reactionary, whimsical, unpredictable, abusive leadership. Not when we have faithful, well-trained and well-educated people who can help cultivate sound leadership/management skills that respect people's dignity and psychological life within the Tradition of Hierarchical authority that has been entrusted to the Church.
"Not lording it over the flock" is a key stricture, and not a gloss. As a Choir Director and a coordinating Reader, I have to watch out for my own self concerning these things, and I look to the Parish Council and my Priest for examples of servant leadership, who in turn look to the bishop and synod for the same.
These are issues which touch people personally, and really do attend upon our journey toward Christ.
Love in Christ,
#10 Rdr. John Edson on 2006-11-24 12:52
The occasional arrogance demonstrated by some Orthodox and Catholic bishops should be seen as human frailty and not as an ecclesiatical attribute. While our faith holds that bishops are direct successors to the original disciples of Christ in a unbroken line of more than two thousand years, no bishop is able to identify exactly which disciples were pompous asses. On the contrary, the early Church believed the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and I am convinced that they took the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount to heart.
As Christianity gained more and more temporal power, it seemed to lose the distinction between God and Caesar that Christ expressed so clearly when questioned by those who thought they could trick him into treason. We would be better served by those who follow the example of Jesus Christ than by those who follow Donald Trump.
#11 Also Anonymous on 2006-11-24 13:26
In response to a comment in another section, and in response to that part of Ms. Jacob's letter where she states "I don't know that what His Grace has mortgaged in Alaska is anyone's business," I offer the following, from the Statute of the Orthdox Church in America, Article VII Sec. 3:
The Diocesan Assembly:
...Discusses financial means to fulfill these aims and approves the budget and other related financial questions;
Authorizes the Diocesan Council to acquire, encumber, or otherwise dispose of diocesan properties; ...
The Diocesan Bishop, on the other hand, is given neither of these powers (see Article VI, Sec. 4). So it would appear to me that in buying, selling and encumbering diocesan properties, Bishop Nicolai has acted illegally.
#12 Michael Strelka, CPA on 2006-11-24 15:55
I have tried to stay out of the Alaska issues, and for the most part I intend to... I consider this scope creep, for the most part.
I can see why Mark is bringing this subject matter into the forum here. Here are my comments.
To the matter of Ms. Black. Use the courts, they work. Teaching this Bishop a lesson might be needed. You don't kick a peasant out on the street if he can't pay his rent without going through the courts and giving fair notice, so why would you kick your servant out without doing the same. I don't believe you can and Ms. Black would probably be due some monetary relief in the courts for pain and suffering. To the matter of the documents, again I say, use the courts. They work.
To the matter of the flowers in the church. Christ would probably tell all of us to give the money to the poor and use no flowers, or that what we find in the field. That might be a lesson for all of us, including Bishop Nikolai.
To the matter of the canes. No Bishop would dare strip my aging parent of a cane while in church. Or, he would summarily get clocked while in front of the Ambo or the Altar, there would be few questions asked after I did it, and I'll take my chances that Christ would forgive my action for the lesson taught to the member of his lineage that went awry.
It would be a good thing if Bishop Nikolai showed some humility, Christ would expect it.
All of us, too, should show some humility and expect a Bishop to be imperfect.
Reporting their bad behavior publicly is good.
#13 Daniel E. Fall on 2006-11-24 21:49
Reading these accounts of abusive, brutish behavior of certain priests and hierarchs, and observing the concomitantly subservient behavior of the great multitude of laity during the course of this scandal, yours truly (of non-Russian background) wonders something...
We read this morning of the assassination of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, a strenuous critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a signed statement shortly before his death, Litvinenko believes he was poisoned at the command of Putin himself... and we thought such brutal Cold War tactics were a thing of the past.
Could we in the OCA be seeing our form of this same abusive, brutish behavior in some of our "leaders" and the concomitant screaming silence among those who knew, or refused to ask? Could this behavior be just more fruit of the same abusiveness that was a tragic byproduct of 90 years of communist rule? Were our OCA "leaders" just doing things that came all too naturally to the generations raised (or indirectly associated through lineage) under the totalitarian yoke? I am certainly not suggesting that anyone has ordered assassinations, but short of that, Putin's heavy-handedness sounds familiar. How much of that same behavior is mimicked in the Orthodox Church? Have these abusive behaviors from Russia crept to the USA given the OCA's close association with the Moscow Patriarchate and Slavic cultures in general? The accounts from these Alaskan letters sound all too familiar to this student of the communist era.
This is a painful issue, but we in the OCA need to get to the bottom of the endemic dysfunction being revealed by this scandal. For sure, each society and culture on this planet has its shortcomings. It is not my intention in raising this issue to point fingers, but we must heal if we have any hope of surviving and thriving. This truth probably hurts badly, but for those of us who have lived around those of Eastern European heritage our whole lives, yours truly suggests, in love, that it may now be time to open this Pandora's box so that healing can be sought. Maybe the OCA has not yet emerged phsychologically, spiritually and morally from the abusive communist era?
#14 Name withheld on 2006-11-25 07:46
How are we to comprehend the two well written letters by competent and qualified writers who seemingly are at opposite extemes regarding the situation in Alaska--one from a Diocesan employee extremely favorable to the bishop and the other from a well respected college professor, not an employee, but who has had significant personal contact with the bishop?
First of all, let me say up front that I am highly suspicious of letters written by subordinates while they are still on the payroll where the subject of the highly complimentary remarks has a documented reputation for acting precipitously towards employees, seminarians, clergy, parishioners etc. As an Alaskan correspondant said..."Clearly, the most unforgiveable sin is to have Bishop Nikolai angry at you".
Let me comment on a few things in Ms. Jacobs letter. She says..."Given the alleged corruption and mismanagement in the central administration, one can only speculate how much Alaskan church land would have been sold to cover deficits in the OCA budget had his Grace Bishop Nikolai not claimed diocesan jurisdiction over the land. This statement strongly sugggests that Bishop Nikolai claimed ownership of the land in order to protect it from the corrupt and greedy central administration. I wonder if Ms. Jacobs can point to some evidence that the bishop publicly complained about the financial shenanigans of the central administration prior to the time the land ownership dispute arose? As I remember it, he was chancellor of the Diocese of the West with his mentor during some of this time and I don't remember either commenting on OCA finances at the time. Also, he was a part of the Synod of Bishops that was saying that everything was under control and audits weren't necessary. I take no position at this time as to who the land actually was was transerred to at the time of the Alaskan purchase in 1867. I'm not convinced that it doesn't belong to the people---not the diocese or the central administration.
Ms. Jacobs says..."The lands question in Alaska is merely a disagreement over jurisdiction". There are some who will disagree with this simplified statement of the overall problem in Alaska, as discussed below.
Further, my experience (based on old age) is that when someone can't answer allegations and facts, the first defense offered is that it is "gossip". Ms. Jacobs' response is true to form. Regardless of the plethora of evidence submitted, it still ends up being all "gossip".
Ms. Jacobs says that the Dr.Black controversy..."was not a mismatched encounter of strong personalities". What was it then? Since Ms. Jacobs admits that she has no personal knowledge of the Black eviction, her entire description of the encounter can only be considered as "gossip".
Instead of answering Dr.Black's allegations of abusive treatment, Ms. Jacobs takes the comfortable route and shifts the discussion to whether Dr.Black sought reconciliation. My impression has always been that when Party A commits an injustice against Party B, Party A is the one that should seek reconciliation--not the other way around regardless of whether either of the parties is a bishop, emperor, king, or dictator. Furthermore, see Dr. Dauenhauer's letter where he says..."Perhaps greater than a single problem many of us have with Bishop Nikolai is the IMPOSSIBILITY (caps mine) of discussing that problem openly and honestly and thereby ideally resolving it in the spirit of reconciliation". So much for Ms Jacobs' comment regarding reconciliation.
Ms. Jacobs further states ..."His Grace has been quite adamant that any objects belonging to Dr. Black should be returned immediately. When did he become adamant and say that all of Dr.Black's objects and materials should be returned to her immediately? Have all of Dr. Black's objects and materials been returned to her? Certainly not immediately since the eviction incident occurred on August 7, 2001 and here it is over five years later in November 2006 and we are still discussing why the objects have not been returned.
Ms. Jacobs said that some..."objects of Dr. Black's which were unknowingly packed when the museum collection was shipped to Anchorage". It is my understanding that Dr. Black requested her objects and material soon after the 2001 eviction. When was the museum collection shipped to Anchorage?
I suppose the most egregious statement in Ms.Jacobs' letter is...."I don't know that what His Grace has mortgaged in Alaska is anyone's business". I think Ms. Jacobs needs to take a basic course in Orthodoxy and if nothing else realize that Orthodox bishops do not enjoy papal powers. The Alaska land and assets are not the personal assets of the bishop. It is is the business of every one of us what happens to church property. Are we to believe that the fund raising activities of the bishop throughout the entire OCA is for the personal benefit of the bishop?
Finally, Ms. Jacobs says..."Bishop Nikolai guides us by the Grace of God with confidence HUMILITY (caps mine), and through it maintains a sense of humor ". Humility??? You've got to be kidding. This concept is completely absent in any of the letters surfacing from Alaskan writers who have been treated harshly and unfairly. Does Ms. Jacobs really believe that the bishop exhibits humility? There are numerous accounts reported on the Internet that the bishop publicly humiliated a number of women (mostly eldlerly) including...stopping liturgy to chastise an elderly woman who was asking the starosta the time because she had an appointment she had to meet; stopping his sermon and humiliating a woman on Graduation Day 2005 who was in the rear of the church translating the bishop's sermon to her hearing impaired brother; stopping the liturgy to criticize the female choir director for singing the Lord's Prayer in English .(The lady was later removed from her position as choir director). In addition to humiliating/verbally abusing elderly women, he has also issued a directive that the St.Herman Cross (awarded for service to the Church) was not to be worn in the church lest the wearer of the cross be confused as clergy. Aw, come on. Get real.
Another credible report says that the bishop admonished a visiting priest from the lower 48 who was there as a tourist. He said something like...." I don't want to see you again without your clerical collar"; this despite the fact that the priest was not under the bishop's omophorion and in fact was pastor of a church thousands of miles from Alaska. Do we interpret this to mean that the bishop thinks he has authority over everyone who visits Alaska , over all Orthodox or all priests?
Hardly the actions of a humble man.
Who wrote the letter for you, Ms. Jacobs?
I was going to comment on Dr. Dauenhauer's letter but my letter is too long as it is and Dr. Dauenhauer's letter speaks for itself based on his personal knowledge of interactions between the bishop and himself. The e-mail correspondence between the bishop and Dr.Dauenhauer is enough to invalidate much, if not most, of what Ms. Jacobs wrote. The bishop said it would not be appropriate to discuss the Dr.Black eviction with Dr. Dauenhauer because..."it wouldn't be appropritate at your level". At your level???Is the Church now relegated to a caste system whereby we have levels of the faithful wherein one level can speak to another in the other level only with permission? Is this what Christ taught?
Does this one sentence tell you anything about the humility of the person?
#15 Niicholas Skovran on 2006-11-25 10:13
First, I need to say that I am Lydia Black's daughter so that it is not a surprise to anyone at any point. I will not comment on the interpretive judgments at this time, but I did feel compelled to correct an indisputable factual error. Ms. Jacobs states, “Incidentally, it was research initiated by His Grace into the Martyr Juvenaly's death which revealed that it was a Native companion who perished with him.” This is patently untrue. In 1987, Father Michael Oleksa, who is on Alaska’s Diocesan Council, presented his paper “The Death of Hieromonk Juvenaly”, a published edition of which can be found in Russia in North America/Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Russian America/Sitka, Alaska/August 19-22, 1987, ed. Richard Pierce, The Limestone Press, 1990. At the time, according to the OCA Web site biography of Nikolai, Nikolai was a year or so away from receiving the “canonical release . . . [and being] received into the ranks of clergy of the Orthodox Church in America.” A reference to “an Indian companion” is also found in Russian America/A Biographical Dictionary, Richard A. Pierce, The Limestone Press, 1990 (when Bishop Nikolai was officiating at St. Paul the Apostle Mission).
#16 Zoe Pierson on 2006-11-25 18:16
It’s very difficult for an outsider to decide which letter represents an accurate portrayal of Bishop Nikolai of Alaska. Both are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Jacob’s could be construed as biased because she is in the employ of the bishop; Dauenhauer’s appears to be more accurate given that he is in a more objective position than Jacob. But, over the past three years I have heard second hand anecdotal information from several sources, all clergy, that support Dauenhauer. Still, one is not sure what to believe and yet, there are facts about Nikolai that are disturbing and create questions and doubts in one’s mind: Nikolai is known to be a self-selected bishop, i.e. he sought the episcopate outside the OCA for several years unsuccessfully until he was tapped by Kondratick, not just for the diocese of Alaska, but with a more visionary future as the one to succeed our present metropolitan. When Nikolai was rejected for the episcopate for the Serbian Church, his temper tantrum was such that people present remember it well to this day.
And then there is the matter of Fr. Isidore, who was made deacon how long ago? And priested just a short time ago, and now mitred! (only the Holy Synod has the right to grant a mitre; during the lifetimes of the blessed Fr. John Meyendorff and Fr. Alexander Schmemann, these two luminaries argued that the mitre for priests was out of place in modern America). The good priest Isidore is on a fast track to somewhere. Fr. Isidore has already been put forward to the Synod as a candidate for bishop – the same Isidore who went to Alaska with Bishop Nikolai, was made deacon, and then penned an article in the North Star on the proper etiquette of bowing before an Orthodox bishop! Does Nikolai expect to be the next metropolitan? Has Nikolai been allowed to think he will succeed Metropolitan Herman?
All of which leads me to another observation regarding one OCA statute. The statute governing the election of the primate only allows one vote in the All American Council before an indecisive vote is thrown into the Synod of Bishops. That needs to be changed to allow ideally subsequent ballots by the entire AAC on the two men receiving the highest number of votes thereby avoiding managed elections with a predetermined outcome. All such elections heretofore have been managed towards a particular outcome and those in the OCA are managed so there is rarely a decisive first ballot, but rather fractured enough to send it into the Synod of Bishops thus allowing the bishops to elect the next primate all the while appearing, through the statute, to empower the delegates to the AAC and leave the peasants with the impression of their own importance.
#17 Terry C. Peet on 2006-11-26 12:01
I've had the chance to read both letters submitted. I'm quite thankful for Ms. Jacobs perspective. As a parishioner of the Diocese of Alaska, she is very much correct that Bishop Nicolai is working hard to improve the welfare of this formerly unhealthy diocese-great things do very much come at an expense however; even if it is at the criticism of professionals such as Dr. Black or anyone else who's had their feelings hurt or humbled by the direction of those such as His grace-Bishop Nicolai. I also agree that redirecting your readers attention to the activities of the Diocese of Alaska seems rather unimportant to mission of this site-there seems to be a somewhat tabloid mentality infiltrating this site.
As far as the comment left by Mr. Tobin, its tasteless to lead those of us that take the time to read these comments, to believe that our Hierarchy is "raping and pillaging" our state or diocesan resources-because thats what he's in fact implying-right? -that our blessed hierarch, Bishop Nicolai is raping and pillaging? To me, thats a terrible metaphore-disgusting even.
I beg Mr. Tobin-please, in addition to praying for our embattled OCA, Mr. Stokoe, His grace Bishop Nicolai and myself, that he spend extra consideration on asking for forgiveness and intercession for his perverse and ugly accusations.
#18 Brad Angasan on 2006-11-26 17:17
I think the anonymous comments to this site to be very telling ... who would'nt ... most of them are fair minded ... and at least from my experience they are perfectly justifyed ... the clergy (in general) if they really believe in Christ have to get over their heirirchical schtick and let the laity fully participate in the OCA .... hey! ... as a start lets start calling it the Orthodox Church OF America not in America!!!!!!!! Let the OCA start being a truly autocephalous church ! ... that would be an inspiring start to this problem ... thankfully it seems that is just what is happening this site is proof of it ...
#19 john morariu on 2006-11-26 21:50
I read with interest the post by person who witnessed Russian Christmas in rural Alaska...
she got it right...
I saw the exact same thing in our parish, verbatim -exactly!
This only stops when outsiders are being courted for their money...
this chatter about the Diocese loving this creature... no way...
I took the time to speak with several Bishops who are members of the Synod (they said Isidore was being considered for the epsicopacy) they asked how people perceived nickolai and Isidore... I told them, as did others here. I mentioned the arrogance and lack of humility, the berating of elders and others, a women of lifelong service to our parish being kicked out of the church - being made a spectacle in public to humiliate. I walked out of church and have not returned since!
Elders have stated "... just wait a while, he will be gone and we'll have our church back"
It was told to me years ago, as a small child, that the evil one does his best work in churches and in so called men of God.
A true russian monastic told me [years ago] that someday - soon... the time would come when "Bozhinka" would no longer be in the church or behind the priests cross, that the only place where the true church would be is in your heart, like babushka taught you, pray hard boy... pray hard! it will be hard to be pravslavnie!
could he have known of my life today?
#20 multi-generational cradle orthodox, lifelong alaskan on 2006-11-26 22:04
I think these two letters and some of the comments show that Bishop Nikolai needs to speak candidly and publicly for himself on these matters, and meet with his accusers to seek to resolve any problems that do exist. I'm sure he doesn't like the idea of speaking publicly, but as this is now a public issue, that is the only way to resolve it. Otherwise, these stories, both true and false, will continue to spread and do damage.
#21 Stephen Ullstrom on 2006-11-27 05:18
The phrase "rape and pillage" is generally used metaphorically to describe a situation resuting in plunder, despoilage, etc. I might have alternatively said "rack and ruin." So I regret if I offended you, but I really wasn't accusing anyone of rape in a literal sense--yet. Furthermore, I was directing this barb not just at Bishop Nikolai, but at Syssot as well. Using the Diocese of Alaska as a piggy bank either by its bishop or Syssot , and offending and neglecting its Orthodox souls, qualifies as "rape and pillage" in my book.
Heretofore, I have refrained from commenting on the situation in Alsaka, but the revelations concerning Bishop Nikolai's pastoral skills cry out for condemnation and correction. I don't care how good an administrator he might be if he isn't a good pastor and shepard of his flock. Surely, you don't disagree? The resume of Donald Trump is not one I would use in filling vacancies in the episcopate!
#22 Kenneth R. Tobin on 2006-11-27 07:05
A definitely insighful post!
An interesting idea it is that a co-dependent relationship exits between autocratic rule and its enabler 'sychophantic behavior' in the slavic soul, engrained even in its religious manifestation. Is this not in the spirit of promoting family and/ot national tribalism which is antithetical to 1 Cor. 12:13?
I hope some psychologists will look into how this has affected Christ's idea of authority as *servant leadership*.
#23 Name withheld on 2006-11-27 09:52
Translations please for "Bozhinka" and "pravslavnie"? Thanks.`
(Editor's note: a Russian diminutive for "God", and "Orthodox", respectively. )
#24 Monolinguist on 2006-11-27 14:02
Mr. Tobin, thank you for your response as I do appreciate your input. In regard to the pastoral abilities of His grace, I'd be lying if I've never questioned them based on the manner to which he's implemented corrective action and discipline to our diocese-but again I stress, great things come at a sometimes great expense.
One has to experience the dysfunction this diocese faced during the years prior to Bishop Nicolai's arrival, in order to grasp or understand our affection for Bishop Nicolai-he has taken the task of righting the wrongs that we were faced with and has nurtured the seed of Christianity to grow in Alaska. This isn't an easy goal to accomplish I assure you this.
Our diocese of Alaska thrives, we are once again "becoming" and all the while we are grateful for Bishop Nicolai's compassion and dedication to our flock.
Mr. Tobin, unless you are not a parent-then you understand that love is not always without discipline. Discipline is not always without consequence. Consequence is not always without self induced humility...
At any regard Mr. Tobin, I hope this accounts for something to you coming from a member of this diocese. Please realize I wish no ill fated feelings or emotions-I feel I have the responsibility to defend our Diocese however when faced with this sort of criticism-and it's not just from you either.
#25 Brad Angasan on 2006-11-27 16:13
There is only One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ and that is the Orthodox Church (or Orthodox Catholic Church) which exists in various places. There is the Orthodox Church in Russia, the Orthodox Church in Greece, and so forth. Changing the "in" to "of" actually changes the concept of what the church is and its ecumenical dimension and reduces it to an ethnic jurisdiction. We are the church in America for we belong to God first and America second.
Terry C. Peet
#26 Terry C. Peet on 2006-11-27 17:26
...the above may seem like a trivial point; there is the Russian , Greek, Romanian ect. Orthodox churchs , calling it the Orthodox Church "in" America always seemed wierdly appolegetic to me so here I offer a self -correction: AOC; American Orthodox Church would be better since the Church is of XC and not America ... thanks JM
#27 john Morariu on 2006-11-28 20:28
Minor corrections and comments.
My wife, a certified Russian/English translator who reluctantly, but thankfully, consented to marry me fourteen wonderful years ago, would translate the term "Bozhinka" as "Dear God", and the term "Pravoslavnie" - as it was transliterated - as "Orthodox People."
Her husband would note that the Russian term "Pravoslavna" doesn't mean "Orthodox" at all, but instead means "True Glory." He would humbly add that, to his knowledge, it is only in the former religious dominions of the Catholics and the other Western Christians that the Truly Glorious Church calls itself "Orthodox", a term he does not believe it is calls itself in any of its homelands; and he would invite your comments.
#28 Mark Warns on 2006-11-29 00:18
Thanks for that translation Mr Warns, it is as I remember....
Bozhinka; God as a term of endearment as in dearly beloved, Pravoslavnie as in "true way" of believing.
That day was in the summer of 1966, that monastic was Fr. Gerasim Schmaltz - who baptized me in the Russian Orthodox Church, not OCA
In those days Monks Lagoon on Spruce Island was never locked, we always believed that God and St Herman would protect it from anyone with an "unclean heart" with bad intentions,
The OCA them came in - took it and locked it up - stating that it had to be protected - from who?
This by so called Bishops who by virtue should have uncommon faith in God not in metal hasps and padlocks!
Today they still call us wrong, saying we do not know what we are doing...
May God be merciful to them on Judgement Day.
#29 multi-generational cradle orthodox, lifelong alaskan on 2006-11-29 08:08
Orthodoxia is Greek for the English word orthodox and is generally thought to mean correct belief, but also it has a deeper meaning of right or correct or true glory.
Pravoslavie is a Church Slavonic word formed by 2 words: prav', meaning correct and slava, meaning glory; so as much as we
claim rightfully that it means true faith, it has asserted through linguistic translation the deeper meaning of true glory.
#30 Karen Jermyn on 2006-11-29 13:12
Re: Eviction from St. Herman's seminary of Dr. Lydia Black by Bishop Nikolai the day before the St. Herman Pilgrimage, something no one has brought to attention.
Here in Alaska, because of the severe weather at times, a five month notice of eviction is required to the tenant before said eviction can take place.
The laws may have changed in the short time since I read that law, but that's what it has been for years.
All of Kodiak was up in arms over this happening.
#31 Rosabel Morrison Baldwin on 2006-11-30 16:08
So, may our Lord help us build a church worthy of its name.
#32 Mark Warns on 2006-12-01 17:39
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